She had hoped the day would go by slow, so she could breathe in every new moment she experienced in the city before she would eventually convert from tourist to citizen. This, however, wouldn't happen. City life was fast, and Belle considered herself a particularly slow person when it came to living in general. Her parents had gotten food in the house and set up the kitchen, so they made breakfast before Belle ventured out into New York’s domain.
Her mind raced as she walked through the streets, careful not to bump into any passersby. She knew in her conscience that they weren’t looking at her, and that they didn’t care what she did or why she did it. Nonetheless, she couldn’t help but shake the feeling they all hated her. She was bothersome and should have stayed in California, where she belonged.
Then she pondered over school, and how she was going to get through junior year without making a fool of herself. These, however, where all just divertive thoughts. She was aware of what was truly on her mind, and she had tried for hours to avoid directly thinking about it.
As Belle approached a café, she set her bag down on one of the metal tables outside the shop and took a seat. A sudden rush of wind pushed her hair in her face and bit her cheeks harshly. She hadn’t checked her messages since last night, and she had an aching feeling that Francesca had texted her. She opened her messages, her screen revealing three missed texts. Two were from her friends in the West coast, the other was Frannie. She had sent the address of the hangout, which was not far from Belle’s home.
She didn’t have to go, she could lie. But she knew this was a stupid decision; she had to make friends one way or another. No matter how much she would like to remain exerted from her peers, they had always found a way to talk to her, and for that she was both grateful and disappointed.
I’ll be there. Sent
Belle’s parents were usually lenient with her going out; they weren’t as strict as other kid’s parents from what she’s heard. However, Belle wasn’t so sure her parents were alright with her going out just a few days into New York, especially with a girl like Frannie, who didn’t appear as innocent as her friends back home. After texting almost everyone in her contacts, asking for advice on how she would get to this ‘hangout’ without her parents knowing, basically every response was just sneak out, dude.
Of course, Belle had never snuck out before because she simply didn’t acquire the need. One day at a new school was apparently all it took. Now, here she was, pacing down a dark and windy street on her way to Francesca’s. She wore boots, skinny jeans, a sweater and a beanie. The outfit was the only thing she was actually proud of at the moment.
Glancing up, she saw Francesca closing the distance between them as she walked down the street to reach her. “I’m so glad you came! My place is right there,” She pointed at a townhouse built of bricks and blue shutters. “Everyone wants to meet you,”
Oh God, Belle thought. Frannie told everyone about her already. What if they become disappointed with what they see? Socializing was a disturbingly weak point for Belle, and she had no idea how to do it with people who were already eager to meet her.
Francesca looped her arm with Belle, a friendly gesture, as the two walked the rest of the distance to her house. Frannie led her to a set of stairs that led down into what appeared to be a basement. She heard loud, thumping music, and fluorescent disco lights. Splendid.
As soon as the set of burgundy double doors opened, smoke wafted into her face and laced through her hair, implementing its scent. Belle coughed, as quietly as one could in attempt for no one to notice. Francesca, however, did. “You okay?” She asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” She muttered, replying with less than she had planned. Belle observed what she could see through the smoke; lazy bodies resting leisurely on dark furniture, with either a beer bottle or a bud in hand, or both. Belle’s heart was beating fast. She was in a very uncomfortable situation. She could feel the smoke drift through her nostrils, seeping down her throat and into her lungs. She mentally thanked herself for remembering her inhaler, which she rested a hand over in her jacket pocket.
“Alright,” Francesca started as she led Belle deeper into the room, “I know what you’re seeing just looks like a lot of shitty people, and they are, but you gotta meet my friends. They’re slightly less shitty than everyone here.” She finished with an ironic smile as they approached a couch, the people seated smiling as their eyes caught Francesca.
“Guys, this is Belle. Belle, this is Jordan, Dex, Victoria…” She went in order from left to right as she pointed to each and said their names, all smiling when mentioned. “and, um, where’s Maxus?” She asked.
“He was drunk before he got here, so he’s outside puking.” The girl with long dark hair and mystifying gray eyes answered. Belle recalled her as Victoria. “Hi Belle,” She said with a smile as she got up and shook her hand. Belle was taken aback but tried her best not to show it; she didn’t think anyone would be so kind. “Wow, you’re really pretty.” She said. Belle snorted, then immediately regretted it. What if Victoria took this the wrong way and thought she snorted out of arrogance?
“Thank you,” She said quickly.
“No, thank you.” One of the boys from the couch got up and moved towards her, “I’m Jordan, the funny black guy. And you,” He took her hand, kissing the back, “are stunning.”
She heard Francesca and Victoria huff beside her. “Jeez, Jordan, you get creepy as hell when you’re drunk.” Victoria remarked.
“I’m being charming!” He replied indignantly, fusing his eyebrows together.
“Right,” Frannie said, looking over towards the couch where the boy, Dex, had apparently passed out. “I swear everyone here is a bunch of alcoholics, why do I even do these hangouts anymore?”
“Because everyone else’s hangouts suck,” Victoria replied as the two nodded, agreeing and laughing at the subject.
Belle felt her forehead sweat, her hands beginning to shake. It wasn’t a good idea, she knew from the start, to be in a room full of smoke. She had to get out before her asthma would take over.
“Fran- Frannie?” She almost shouted without meaning to, her words stuttering. “I nee-ed the bathroom,”
“Oh, I’ll show you wh-”
“No!” She cut her off nervously, “I’ll go find it,” Belle quickly departed before Frannie could say anything else.
She felt the worry seep in as she paced quickly towards the open doorway; everyone thought she was an idiot now. How she practically yelled at Francesca, no one would ever want to talk to her again. Belle felt so stupid even thinking she could make any friends. A tear began to welt in the corner of her eye as she approached the door, but she forced it down. She can’t cry here, she had to save that for home.
The cold night air hit her as she exited and ascended the stairs. The temperature helped cool her down as she practiced her breathing exercises provided by her doctor. She took her inhaler out, but after only two minutes of regulation, there was no need. Belle felt an ounce of pride for not needing her inhaler this time, but the previous events had shadowed over. She knew maybe it was her anxiety that made things worse because they always did. But, perhaps, the situation was as bad with social anxiety or not.
Belle shrieked as she jumped back, the sudden motion causing her hair to swing. A boy with dark reddish hair and dark eyebrows leaned on a black metal fence awkwardly, his eyes appearing dazed and confused. “Hi,” He said again, a lazy smile as he squinted at her. “Who are you?”
“Belle,” She said slowly, her voice shook. She always hated herself for getting scared so easily.
“You are the Belle,” He seemed amused at this, “do you chime like a bell? I like bells. You don’t look like a bell…” His words slurred as he suddenly bent over, extracting vomit onto the concrete. She laughed at his drunken words.
“Um,” She said awkwardly after a few moments of him puking, “I should probably go.” She considered the possibility of just going home instead of retreating back inside. However, she had told Frannie that she was going to the bathroom. She can’t just leave, otherwise their view of her would be even worse. But what if she did go back inside? How would they react to her rude exit? What if they were telling everyone how mean she was, and how no one should ever be friends with her because-
“Nooooo don’t leave,” The boy slurred, “You gotsta stay in time for cookies!”
“COOKIES,” He repeated louder, as if Belle didn’t know what a cookie was. “Butterflies make them.”
Belle cocked an eyebrow, curious if alcohol was the only thing he had consumed during this party. He sat up against the fence, placing his elbows on each knee, his gaze distant. She considered using this moment to make an escape, seeming he wasn’t paying attention. Still, should she go back to the party or return to the safety and comfort of her home, where no judgments were ever passed?
Belle swiftly turned, her boots clicking in response to her footsteps as she paced down the street on her way home. She hoped the boy wouldn’t notice, but he was drunk, so he most likely wouldn’t remember this in a matter of hours. But what would Francesca remember? What about all of her friends, what did they think of her now? Belle decided after a few minutes to cut her worrying off for once in her life. She was tired of these thoughts tearing her mind apart. She would worry about it on Monday, when it all mattered again.
Weekends seemed to breeze by these days, it being Monday already as Belle’s alarm clock screamed at her. She punched it angrily, pushing herself off her stomach and out of bed with difficulty. Her vision was foggy so she put her glasses on; the buildings outside her window were clear again. She changed quickly, her thoughts only dedicated to Saturday night’s occurrence. Belle brushed her teeth, grabbed an apple and her backpack before slipping on her shoes and exiting her apartment.
The air stung as usual, a breeze swishing her hair violently. Every footstep she made brought her nearer to school, every minute beckoning the confrontation with Frannie. Belle considered the possibility the Frannie had forgotten, but she knew that was a long shot.
Accidently, Belle was the first to class. She had always been early to all of her classes at her old school, mainly because she didn’t spend time talking to anyone. The bell rung, students entering class shortly after. Brandon, the boy who greeted her on the first day, winked. Belle glanced back, but there was no one in the desk behind her.
“Hey beautiful,” He said as he said down, studying her intently.
“Hi,” was all she thought to say. His forwardness bothered her because it forced her to reply awkwardly. She didn’t know how to flirt, and she had never planned on doing so.
Belle’s heart lurched as Francesca entered, a content smile on her face. Her smile widened at the sight of Belle.
“Hey chickie,” she greeted happily. She wasn’t mad. “Where were you last night? You, like, disappeared.”
Belle’s mouth fell open for only a second before she quickly closed it. Her mind raced for a response. “I… um,” she then considered telling her the truth, that she was about to have an asthma attack and needed to leave immediately. All of her friends in Cali knew, so she mine as well tell Frannie. She decided to tell her quickly before her mind could conjure up all of the consequences.
“The truth is,” she started, “I have asthma. There was a lot of smoke and I didn’t want-”
“Oh my God,” She cut her off, her eyes growing wide, “I am such an idiot! Oh my God I am so sorry Belle I am so stupid I can’t believe I just brought you to a place with a bunch of drugs I didn’t even ask if you were okay with it shit I am so stupid-”
“Frannie,” Belle stopped her, “You’re fine! I… actually thought you would be mad at me.” The idea now seemed silly to Belle as she felt the weight of many things lift off her shoulders.
“Why would you-” She sounded confused before glancing towards the doorway, her expression shifting to annoyance, “There you are.”
Belle glanced back, what she saw shocking her. The drunken boy from last night had entered, responding to Francesca’s remark with a silly expression. He and Brandon did a handshake, one of those complicated ones that boys do, as he walked towards the back of the class and sat down.
“Who’s that?” Belle asked.
“Maxus; He’s an idiot,” She said in a bored tone, “Why?”
“Haha oh my God. Every girl.” She positioned herself towards the front of the class as she glanced at the board, beginning to copy what was written under Warm-Up.
“What do you mean?” Belle asked.
“You think he’s cute,” She basically stated, not even looking at her for conformation.
“What? No, I just saw him last night and he was really drunk…”
“Oh?” She glanced up, “Yeah, he does that. He’s got shitty problems, I’m sorry if he bothered you. Also, I’m so sorry I took you to that place,” She began apologizing again before the teacher interrupted, informing the class on today’s topics.
As time continued to die, Belle paid close attention. She had made it her duty to be on A honor roll this semester. Last year she had gotten one B, so she was stuck on AB honor roll. Everyone was proud of her except for her. Belle had thought from time to time on possibly letting up and not being so hard on herself. Her parents always told her that her grades were amazing, and she needn’t be so strict with herself. But what if they were lying? Of course they wouldn’t tell her this, but deep down they knew she could have gotten all A’s easily, if she had just worked a little harder. They had been disappointed, and Belle could see it on their faces even if they wouldn’t show it.
The teacher had ordered the class to read a story in the text book. Belle had flipped through the pages excitedly as everyone else appeared bored, slowly getting out their books as if it was a real struggle. She felt like a nerd, but she basically was and that was the only thing Belle truly liked about herself. She’d rather be a nerd with a good future than a drunk with nothing.
As the class read, Belle stole a quick glance to the back of the room at Drunk Guy. His name was Maxus, but when she saw him all she thought of was cookies, butterflies, and alcohol. To her amazement, he was reading, but when she looked closer, she noticed his phone was placed on his book. She wasn’t surprised.
When class ended, Francesca and Belle walked together to her next class. Frannie bombarded her with questions about California that she claimed she kept forgetting to ask. Belle didn’t do well with questions because she always worried that her response would sound dumb and the inquirer would judge her. Nevertheless, she felt more comfortable talking to Frannie. She didn’t seem like the type to judge easily; she was free spirited in a way.
“Yo,” A deep voice greeted from behind. Maxus moved next to Francesca, the two starting to converse as Belle walked with them awkwardly. The boy glanced over, his expression somewhat confused as he looked at her.
“This is Belle, Maxus. Belle, I’m sure you already know who this is.” Frannie chuckled at her own comment.
Maxus furrowed his eyebrows, confused as he looked from Frannie to Belle. “Well hey,” he said with a lighthearted smile. He was hammered that night, so Belle hadn’t expected him to remember her in the first place. The two continued to chat before dropping Belle off to her class. She had remained quiet the whole time, which wasn’t unusual behavior for her. Yet, she wished she could be more sociable with these people. Maybe if she talked to them more, it would help her break out of her shell.
She knew this was true, mainly because her mother wouldn’t stop giving the advice since she actually started school. If only Belle was actually capable of this. She wished sometimes that her pills helped more, but she knew it wasn’t the medications fault. Without her meds, she would be too scared to even go outside.
The rest of the day was slow and boring, mainly because it was a Monday. She had paid vigorous attention in every class, and had felt rather smug with herself towards the end of the day. Her binder was already full of notes, and it was only her second day at school. She was getting straight A’s this semester and nothing was going to stop her.